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Male educators of color get support network




As CMSD tries to recruit more male black and Latino teachers, it also is working to keep and develop those who already work for the District.

The Men of Color sHaping Academics, or MOCHA, initiative continued Thursday with a mixer at Punchbowl Social in The Flats. More than 90 men signed up for three hours of camaraderie organized to show them that while their numbers may be small, they are not alone.

CMSD and other urban districts across the country have pledged to increase professional support and leadership opportunities for men of color. The goal is to develop role models for male black and Latino students, but younger educators can also look to their more accomplished brethren for inspiration.

“We want to let them know there’s a career path they can follow in the District,” said mixer emcee Luther Johnson, CMSD’s executive director of talent labor management. “Their skill set is going to be very important.”

A mixer in April broke the ice; the fall follow-up paired mentors and mentees with shared interests. In keeping with CMSD’s belief that all of its employees serve as educators by virtue of the examples they set, the gathering also included staff from safety and security, information technology and other non-academic departments.

Lamar Thomas, a second-year paraprofessional who works at Oliver H. Perry PreK-8 School, hopes someday to become a teacher. He said a mentor can supply him with advice he can pass on to students.

The shortage of minority educators is a nationwide problem. CMSD has more than 17,000 male black and Hispanic students; yet the District has only 163 male black and Latino teachers. Black men account for only 2 percent of teachers and Latino men account for 1 percent. 

The District seeks to increase those numbers through its annual Teach Cleveland recruiting and hiring campaign. Ricardo “Rocky” Torres, principal of Luis Munoz Marin PreK-8 School, said the MOCHA initiative further demonstrates commitment.

“You can see the issue is on their radar,” said Torres, who serves on a MOCHA planning committee. “They’re trying to do something about it.”

District CEO Eric Gordon told the educators at the mixer that they have helped eliminate higher rates of suspensions for minority students and excessive assignment of those groups for special education. And CMSD’s black and Hispanic students now graduate at rates higher than those of their peers statewide.

Johnson said the District's progress is drawing attention.

“The work we’re doing is paying off,” he said. “The eyes of the nation are on us.”

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